4 May, 2023
Council backs hotelier on traffic direction issue
BARRON Valley hotelier Michael Nasser was breathing a sigh of relief last week after Tablelands Regional Council overturned a recommendation to reverse the direction of traffic on a lane that is critical to the operation of his drive-through bottleshop.
Mr Nasser spoke out two weeks ago after Mayor Rod Marti told him the traffic direction would be reversed on Railway Lane as part of the plans for the Priors Creek precinct, and that a distribution shed he uses for the business would also have to be removed.
Mr Nasser told the Planning Commit-tee meeting on 13 April that if the shed was removed and the traffic reversed, his business would be placed in jeopardy and asked if a decision could be made that day to relieve his anxiety and stress over the issue.
At the time, Deputy Mayor Cr Kevin Cardew, who was chairing the meeting in Mayor Marti’s absence, gave an undertaking the decision would be made when council held its Ordinary meeting on 27 April. But Mayor Marti attempted to defer the matter at last week’s meeting, saying questions and issues were now being raised that were not previously raised in workshops about the project.
“I think it’s in council’s interests to perhaps workshop that one more time before we make a decision in a fortnight (at the next Planning Committee meeting) so that when we come to that meet-ing we’re better informed on the issues,” he said.
Cr Peter Hodge immediately reacted, saying he wanted the matter, which was listed on the agenda, to be dealt with as planned.
“This is another prime example of this landing on our desk for this meeting today and now, whoops, it doesn’t suit people, someone might want to influence someone. I am dead set against changing (deferring) it – we should either approve it or not,” he said.
Cr Cardew said he would “struggle” to defer the matter because he had given a public commitment to Mr Nasser that it would be dealt with at the 27 April meeting.
But the Mayor pleaded with councillors to wait, saying it was a “really important decision” that was not “going to benefit from expediency”.
“We never had the issues and questions that we have at the moment, so I think it’s in council’s interests that we’re fully informed about what’s proposed – we can have that honest discussion and then come back in a fortnight and make the decision,” Mayor Marti said.
Cr Hodge replied: “We can have the honest discussion, right here, right now”.
Council rejected the deferral motion and ploughed ahead, firstly listening to officers explaining why the traffic direction should be reversed.
“We propose to reverse the traffic direction on Railway Lane, and during that peak period (school times), it will allow vehicles to travel down Railway Lane from the northern roundabout all the way down to Silo shopping centre and circle back through the new link road,” project manager Paul Stubbs said.
He said the move would take pressure off Main Street and, as a referral agency to the council’s development ap-plication, the Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR) had also indicated this was the preferred approach.
“They allude that if we don’t allow for this movement, then there will be additional pressure on Main Street which will introduce further conflicts of queuing in the street which could trigger a range of upgrades to Main Street – that could result in loss of car parks and (the introduction of) signalised intersections on Main Street.”
Cr Cardew argued that reversing the lane would actually lead to more traffic being forced onto Main Street, between Vernon and Jacks Streets, as vehicles negotiated the area to access different areas. He also believed more traffic would be pushed towards the IGA car park.
While other councillors made it clear they supported the Priors Creek precinct development but were concerned that re-versing the traffic was not the way to go.
Cr Peter Hodge said he would with-draw his support for the project if the traffic reversal was supported because it would affect the Barron Valley Hotel, which employs around 50 people, and “put that business in jeopardy”.
“My role is to represent the people who elected me and I will not let the business people down in this town – they are the ones that pay all our fees and wages of this organisation,” he said.
Mayor Marti did his best to convince councillors to listen to the expert advice which had been corroborated by DTMR engineers and reverse the traffic direction on Railway Lane, saying the precinct would markedly change the area and if council wanted to attract investors, it must have the best model for traffic flow.
“This is desperately needed by everyone who drives a car through Atherton,” he said. “It’s not just about the businesses on Main Street or in Railway Lane.
“As we move towards transforming the Atherton CBD with the Priors Creek development, this is one of many critical decisions we’ll make along the way.
“I fully understand the concerns raised by the owner of the Barron Val-ley Hotel and if I was the owner, I would raise an objection too because and it means changes are afoot and there will be impacts upon the Barron Valley Hotel – I fully accept that.
But he argued that by creating the recreational precinct, more people would be attracted to the area, giving “enormous opportunities to businesses, two in particular” being the Carrington Hotel and BV Hotel as they had dual street access to pedestrians which “is gold from a hospitality business perspective”.
Council voted 5-2 to retain the current traffic direction on Railway Lane.
Council also later decided in closed session to allow Mr Nasser to continue to use the distribution shed under a li-cence agreement subject to the structure being altered so it is contained within a lot sub-leased from council.
After the meeting, Mr Nasser thanked councillors. “It was pleasing to see common sense prevail on keep-ing the laneway in its current direction,” he said.